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Unexpected Character

"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."
Masahiro Sakurai on the inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer, Super Smash Bros.

Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. The Hero, The Lancer, the Ensemble Darkhorse... no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a One-Scene Wonder, someone who had succumbed to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, or simply a Living Prop, or even someone from outside the franchise.

Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales in the unexpected addition, which is actually pretty sound business sense.

Due to the ease of slipping in outside characters in a Fighting Game (both in terms of mechanics and plot), Guest Fighter can be considered a particularly common subtrope.

Remember, Examples Are Not Recent.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece
    • No one had expected Robin to join the Straw Hats. Granted, she had helped Luffy and betrayed Crocodile but it made her more of a wild card and after the battle, she had disappeared. Then just as the crew leaves Alabasta, Robin appears out of nowhere and requests to Luffy to join which he nonchalantly agrees. Added to that is that throughout the entire Baroque Works arc, Vivi had been played up as the potential next member of the Straw Hats, until she turned down the offer to stay behind and rebuild Alabasta right before Robin joined.
    • Most people wrote Bellamy out as dead, and it's not hard to see why, seeing as his boss is Doflamingo and he went and pissed the guy off by losing to Luffy. Come chapter 704, not only is he still alive and still under Doflamingo's employment, he's also a participant in the tournament for the Mera Mera no Mi. Also, the appearance of Jesus Burgess was likewise something nobody could have seen coming. Later on, the supposedly long-dead Sabo has shown up.
    • There's also Duval's true identity, who the audience knows nothing about other than he has a personal grudge against Sanji. When his helmet comes off and everyone can see who he is, they discover that he's a completely random schmuck who never met Sanji before, but looks exactly like his horribly-drawn wanted poster.
  • Pokémon
    • After the Advanced Generation series ended, it was general consensus that Wallace, Gym Leader in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Champion in Emerald, was another addition to the many game characters that got Adapted Out in the anime. To everyone's surprise, he shows up in the middle of the Diamond and Pearl series as part of Dawn's story, hosting a special Pokémon Coordinator tournament that bears his name.
    • The Best Wishes series has Clair from Pokémon Gold and Silver showing up. Sure she and the majority of the Generation I-IV Gym Leaders show up at the Pokémon World Tournament in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, but that's more an optional encounter.
    • Ash had Charizard rejoining his team, and not just for a big match like his previous returns. He's sticking around for the rest of the Best Wishes series at least.
    • Clement's fourth pokemon is Luxio something no one saw coming. First off its a mon from a generation not being actively promoted and secondly its not even in the Kalos region pokedex. Some speculate its on the team to promote a hidden upcoming evolution.
  • Gundam Build Fighters:
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try continues this trend with the Winning Gundam revealed to be a modified Captain Gundam.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fic 

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Used towards the end of the Animorphs series. Arbon and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting What Happened to the Mouse?
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the Omen of the Stars finale The Last Hope, such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
    • When Dawn of the Clans, a prequel series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few WindClan battle strategies in Battles of the Clans) showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in The Sun Trail.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Watson (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a Final Destination novel in Victorian Britain.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
  • In the fifth book of Venus Prime, Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable Pompous Political Pundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be William Laird, the leader of the Free Spirit.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas pops up out of nowhere to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
  • Gaunts Ghosts likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been Put on a Bus to play major roles much later. Sanian reappears in Sabbat Martyr, Sturnn reappears in Traitor General, and Agun Soric reappears in Only In Death. It also works in reverse for the author's other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in Eisenhorn and Ravenor respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
  • Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe would not have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases.

    Live-Action TV 

    Music 
  • Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Def Leppard, System of a Down, Linkin Park and... The Pretty Reckless?
  • Mass-artist compilations fall into this from time to time.
  • In a media crossover-example, Rhythm Games probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with Rock Band 3 ("The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and... Phoenix?"note ).
  • Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of Paramore, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Taylor Swift.
  • Kanye West's albums usually have at least one.
    • The College Dropout had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
    • Late Registration had both Mac and Foxx, but also included Lupe Fiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon Five, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Jay-Z was feuding with him at the time, Nas on "We Major".
    • Graduation had Chris Martin of Coldplay.
    • 808s and Heartbreak had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne.
    • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Elton John, La Roux, Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas), Chris Rock, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
    • Watch the Throne had fucking Otis Redding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
    • Cruel Summer had most of its' supporting cast like this - R. Kelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
    • Yeezus had King Louie and Assassin.
    • Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with 30 Seconds to Mars, Katy Perry or Madonna.
  • Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Drake, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and... Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine).
  • Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Tina Fey.
  • Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester.
  • Drake's "All Me" includes an introduction by... Aziz Ansari.
  • Nine Inch Nails turned some heads when the guest list for Hesitation Marks included Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
  • For some appearances in 1994 (including on Saturday Night Live) Tom Petty's drummer was Dave Grohl, previously of Nirvana. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
  • Tech N9ne and Serj Tankian had a very unusual - if compelling - collaboration.
  • Within Temptation's album Hydra featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's annual Royal Rumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms:
    • You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g., Honky Tonk Man in 2000, Diesel/Kevin Nash in 2011 and 2014).
    • There are also bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g., John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010).
    • Every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g., Beth Phoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014).
    • Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g., Jerry Lawler in 1996 and 2012, Michael Cole in 2012, JBL in 2014).
    • One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was Drew Carey in the 2001 match.

    Video Games 
  • Street Fighter X Tekken includes Poison, and exclusive to the Sony platforms are Cole MacGrath and Sony Japan mascots Toro and Kuro.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up has characters described as "Characters you know in addition to ones you wouldn't expect." True, everybody knew that Shredder, April, Casey, and the title characters would appear, but not an unnamed Foot Soldier or an alien in a battle suit that was a one-shot character from the 2003 show (as an Expy for Krang from the 80s show). And for established characters, there's the Fugitoid and Night Watcher (who has a completely different gameplay from regular Raphael). Finally, there are Raving Rabbids.
  • Excluding the Turtles and Shredder, almost the entire cast of the SNES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters is really obscure. War is a very minor bad guy in the Archie comic book series, while Aska is an Original Generation character. The Genesis version had Original Generation Sisyphus, an anthropomorphic beetle with no real backstory, and Ray Fillet, who was unknown to most outside of an action figure and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. Both 16-bit versions of the game had Karai as the final boss, a character who was still pretty new to the Mirage Comics who still languished in obscurity until 2003 when she finally showed up in an animated adaption.
  • TMNT fighting games have this as "par for the course". TMNT Mutant Melee had a teenage Hun (seen only in flashbacks), Summer and Winter outfits for Casey Jones and April (they were only costumes, but they had their own character slots), Gold Shredder (Meant to be a One-Winged Angel for Shredder), Sleeg (an alien that the Turtles met in the Triceraton prison that barely had any screentime at all), and MONSTER. Don't remember the Turtles palling around or fighting a character like this? That's because they DIDN'T. He showed up as the antagonist of a horror movie Michelangelo was watching. Yes, his only appearance prior was in a Show Within a Show, appearing only for a few seconds in ONE episode.
  • Super Smash Bros.
    • In the first game, Ness from cult classic EarthBound.
    • Captain Falcon also seemed a strange choice at the time of the first game, as he is from racing series F-Zero, instead of a platformer. At least Star Fox 64 has a secret on-foot mode that let Fox McCloud out of the cockpit.
    • The Ice Climbers appearing in Super Smash Bros. Melee qualifies, since they previously only ever existed in a single arcade/NES title, and were only added to the roster for their gameplay potential.
    • Mr. Game & Watch wasn't even a distinct character before Melee, and while his home series was significant to Nintendo's history, it is relatively unknown to those growing up after the 80's.
    • Then we have the situation that named Marth Debuted in Smash Bros. Marth might have seemed more reasonable to Japanese gamers, but the series he hailed from had never been released in the United States prior to Super Smash Bros. Melee.
    • Roy made his character debut in Melee. Fire Emblem Sealed Sword came out a few months later. Even the Japanese were surprised.
    • While the idea of having a playable Pokémon Trainer was a somewhat popular choice, many wrote it off as very unlikely to happen. And even within the Trainer's moveset, while Squirtle and Charizard were popular choices, nobody expected Ivysaur, even if it was the most logical counterpart to the other two. Two reasons to make Ivysaur unexpected: 1) It's the middle evolution of a Pokemon. You could see Bulbasaur perhaps or Venusaur at a stretch, but Ivysaur? and 2) It's the first fully quadruped fighter in the series, and the only one in Brawl.
    • There's also Solid Snake, who was confirmed as the series' first third-party character. Sonic the Hedgehog would have been a major example if Snake hadn't been revealed first, since, really, he was the first third-party character anyone would expect to show up.
    • In Adventure Mode in Melee, Metal Mario's not much of a surprise, as he's also in the original. But after you've unlocked Luigi, you find yourself fighting Metal Mario and Metal Luigi.
    • With the reveal of the fourth game for both the Wii U and the 3DS, it was not very surprising when the Villager from Animal Crossing and Mega Man (Classic) were the first new characters to be revealed. However, later on in the same day, the female trainer from Wii Fit was revealed to much more surprise.
    • Also for Wii U/3DS, Ensemble Darkhorse of Super Mario Bros. Rosalina was announced. As the Mario series already had 4 characters announced (not counting those considered to be from their own universes), another one was unexpected, and if one did happen it wasn't expected to be her due to her relative recency compared to other possible characters.
    • Many expected Charizard to return, but not as a standalone character without the Pokémon Trainer.
    • Many didn't see Greninja coming despite being a very popular 6th generation Pokémon since, unlike Lucario, Greninja didn't have a marketing push and hadn't made a proper appearance in the anime by the time of its reveal.
    • If you thought one Mega Man was enough, Mega Man's Final Smash has five.
    • Including Miis shouldn't be a surprise at this point, but three types - Fighter, Shooter and Swordsman - is.
    • Rather than have Chrom as the Fire Emblem Awakening representative, everyone was shocked to see that Awakening would be represented by Robin and Lucina. Chrom spends the trailer face-down defeated and Lucina's intro splash reads "Lucina Wakes Her Blade?!"
    • While everyone knew that other Nintendo games with no fighter/stage reps would be acknowledged via trophies, no one expected that 3rd party games could get trophy only representation. Then a Miiverse update revealed that Rayman would appear in trophy form. It's also the first acknowledgement of a game series developed by a non-Japanese 3rd party developer.
    • No one predicted that damn Duck Hunt Dog (paired up with one of the ducks) scrapping with Mario and friends.
    • Bowser Jr. was a heavily requested character, but no one thought that his seven alternate costumes would not be different colorings, but the seven Koopalings instead.
    • Dr. Mario returning for the fourth game after not appearing in Brawl.
    • Alph from Pikmin 3 being an alternate costume for Olimar. No one suspected this would be done, even after Sakurai stated that Lucina was planned to be Marth's alternate costume.
    • At the end of the "50 Facts" Nintendo Direct about Smash for the Wii U, Mewtwo was announced as a returning character, as DLC for spring 2015. While DLC characters had been a highly plausible theory since Nintendo was entering that field more in recent times, many had written Mewtwo off since he had a trophy in the 3DS version of the game. This has opened the possibilities for any number of unexpected character reveals now.
  • Capcom's 2D fighting game based on the third part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a couple. First up is Midler, the user of the Stand named High Priestess: since she is never seen clearly in the manga, author Hirohiko Araki had to create her character design for the game from scratch! There's also the younger version of Joseph, based on his appearance in the second part of the manga. For downplayed examples, Alessi's Stand has the power to physically regress opponents for a short time, but characters other than the main heroes usually become one-shot extras from the manga.
  • Capcom's "Versus" games
  • Before appearing in Brawl as mentioned above, R.O.B. also showed up as a secret character in Mario Kart DS. For Mario Kart Wii, surprises include Funky Kong and Dry Bowser. And in Mario Kart 7, we have a Lakitu, a Wiggler, Metal Mario, and Queen Bee. Before all those, we had Petey Piranha and King Boo showing up as unlockable racers in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!.
    • Mario Kart 8 has the 7 koopalings as playable characters after being regulated to being boss characters in Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Super Mario Bros Wii and New Super Mario Bros. U. Pink Gold Peach, a pink, metal version of Princess Peach, also came as a huge surprise since a metal Peach character never existed until now.
    • Mario Kart 8 is the first game to include Downloadable Content. Yet no one expected the first DLC for Nintendo's premiere Wacky Racing game would be karts based on real world Mercedes-Benz cars (one contemporary, two classic sports models).note  And on the day the Mercedes karts were made available, Nintendo surprised everyone be revealing that Link from The Legend of Zelda and the Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing would be part of upcoming paid DLC packs.
  • SNK has gotten into the act as well, from the many Another Striker cameos in The King of Fighters 2000 to such characters as Mars People, Red Arremer and the title character of Athena in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos. Nobody expected a King Of The Monsters character (Cyber Woo) in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum (Shermie could also be one since, despite the pivotal role she played in The King of Fighters '97, the team she represents, the Orochis, are more known as a collective unit than by themselves). Then they show Hwa Jai, who has not been in a proper fighting game since 1991. And in regards of SVC Chaos, Zero was a surprise to begin with, but an even bigger surprise was he was based on his Mega Man Zero incarnation rather than the more popular Mega Man X. Another surprise was Earthquake, who hadn't appeared in a game in nearly a decade and wasn't particularly popular then.
    • Choi Bounge's SVC Chaos appearance could be said to be one. He's been a fixture of The King of Fighters, frequently appearing as a team member of Kim Kaphwan's Korea team, but he's always seen with The Big Guy, Chang Koehan (to the point he was an Assist Character to Chang in Capcom Vs SNK 2). His appearance sans Chang in SVC was unique (conversely Chang appears without Choi in KOF 2003, which came out the same year). Kasumi Todoh may be as well (as she never really stood out in the cast of any game she's appeared in and her father, Ryuhaku Todoh, did show up in CvS2).
  • Kirby Triple Deluxe has two surprise bosses! Who are they? Masked Dedede and Dark Meta Knight of all people!
  • Super Robot Wars is not above doing this. In addition to the usual legendary series and hits, any Humongous Mecha that exists in any medium, no matter how obscure it is, has a chance to be included. Combat Mecha Xabungle and Hades Project Zeorymer are two such examples.
  • The Dragon Ball games:
    • The Budokai Tenkaichi games have, among others, Grandpa Gohan, Arale Norimaki, General Blue, Frieza Soldier, Appule,note  Spopovich, Babidi, and Nail. The more popular characters are usually expected or asked for, but some of these are just unexpected.
    • The original Budokai trilogy had this, especially Budokai 2 which featured Gokule as an unlockable fusion, and even What If? characters, specifically Tiencha (Tien and Yamcha after doing the Fusion Dance) and 4 different forms for Super Buu after absorbing Tien and Yamcha, Vegeta, Frieza and Cell.
    • The arcade game Dragon Ball Heroes includes a ton of characters first appearing in games (Kid Krillin, Pirate Robot, Bio-Broly, Paragus, Kid Vegeta, Young Nappa, Lord Chilled, GT Satan, GT Goten, Bills, Whis, Hell Fighter 17, Oceanus Shenron, etc.) as well as new transformations. (Super Saiyan God Goku, SSJ3 Trunks, SSJ3 Future Gohan, GT Gotenks, Super 17 Cell Absorbed, Baby Janemba, etc.).
  • Melty Blood, a fighting game based on Tsukihime, had Miyako Arima, a character barely mentioned to have existed, and even then not by name. Not to mention Neko-Arc, Mecha-Hisui, and Neko-Arc-Chaos.
  • Soul Series
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy
    • People assumed early on Seymour would be in as the villain of Final Fantasy X, but instead Tidus' father Jecht, who was more an Antihero/Antivillain than a real antagonist, got in over Seymour. Square actually decided to explain this one—Seymour had more of a rivalry/connection with Yuna, so having him in the game as the representative villain would have meant there was little going on between Tidus and Seymour story-wise, whereas Jecht provided a deeper father-son/rivalry dynamic.note 
    • In the prequel Dissidia 012, who did we get new from Final Fantasy VIII? Not Seifer, or Rinoa, or even Edea. No, we get Laguna Loire.
  • Nippon Ichi games often have a number of characters from other games appear as cameos, which may fall under this trope. For example, Aramis from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness appears for all of one chapter and isn't even playable in any version of the game. He becomes a Downloadable Content Optional Party Member in Disgaea 3. The strongest Bonus Boss in Zettai Hero Project is Valvoga from Makai Kingdom, whose only other appearance outside those two games were as part of a spell animation in Disgaea 2. Disgaea 4 has announced King Krichevskoy as a Downloadable Content Optional Party Member. However, it's technically Vyers/Mid-Boss, but with his power returned and the antennae grown back out. Still pretty awesome though.
  • Harold the ghoul in Fallout 3. He was the only character that appeared in the three first main Fallout games.
  • The Mascot Fighter Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion includes the channel's usual stable of characters... and Captain Planet, who actually predated the channel by a few years.
  • Nicktoons MLB has five Sponge Bob Square Pants characters (natch): SpongeBob, Patrick, Sandy,... Larry the Lobster and the Flying Dutchman? We also get Gaz, Powdered Toast Man and a Yak. The 3DS version adds Hiro Mightypaw.
  • Touhou
    • Phantasmagoria of Flower View includes several main and minor characters, three newly introduced ones... and Yuuka Kazami, who hadn't been seen since Mystic Square seven years earlier.
    • Of the three characters to get a story route in Hisoutensoku, Sanae was a main character at that point and Cirno is a major Ensemble Darkhorse, but no-one was expecting Hong Meiling of all people, who had last appeared as a late addition to Immaterial and Missing Power with no story route.
    • Ten Desires had some unusual casting choices: Youmu returned as playable after being ignored for the last three games, the final boss from six games previous returns... as the first boss, Kogasa reappeared as a midboss... it was to the point that people weren't really surprised when Nue showed up as the EX midboss.
    • Hopeless Masquerade, the fighting game set during a religious squabble. The Buddhist representatives are the head monk and... Ichirin, The Generic Girl, rather, say, Shou, the next most important of the group. Meanwhile, the character from Mountain of Faith isn't from the Moriya shrine or even Aya, but Nitori, a fairly minor character unrelated to the conflict. And Subterranean Animism has Koishi, who's entire schtick is not caring about things or being cared about.
    • Impossible Spell Card has Kijin Seija, the Big Bad of the last game. Even though she had already become a fan favorite, very few really expected her to become a playable character, least of all so soon after her introduction.
    • The fangame Mystical Power Plant (the sequel to The Last Comer) managed to pull this off with one particular character, despite having a cast of entirely original characters apart from the player's shot types. The bosses throughout the main story are based on Japanese mythology and/or history, and just fitting in with the Fantasy Kitchen Sink feel of Touhou in general, and all of them seem generally plausible. And then we get to the extra stage, where the boss is a Vocaloid. With a theme to match. It's fairly safe to say nobody saw that coming.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty changed most of its promos to hide the appearance of player character Raiden who unexpectedly replaces Solid Snake. Even the antagonists have no idea who he is during the first half. Due to negative reaction, the character changed for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and his reveal happened at the end of the trailer. Guns of the Patriots itself managed to keep another few characters completely hidden: Big Boss (who did not appear until the start of the credits as the game's final twist), EVA (who is introduced under the alias "Big Mama" to throw off players), and Major Zero (who only appears in the final scene alongside Big Boss).
  • Infected allows you to play as the members of Slipknot along with... the vocalist from Chimaira (who says musicians need to get their own Guitar Hero title to be put in a game?)
  • Pretty much any musician appearing in a non-music game counts as this. Was anybody really expecting the Fight Club video game to have Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit as a playable character?
  • The appearance of Sonic's Classic self in the teaser trailer for Sonic Generations.
  • Mortal Kombat
    • While Mortal Kombat Armageddon promised to bring back every character that ever appeared in a Mortal Kombat game as playable, it's doubtful that very many fans (assuming they even knew who he was) would have expected Meat making it to the roster, given that in his appearance in Mortal Kombat 4 he wasn't so much a character as an alternate costume available for any character through a cheat code to make them look like a bloody skeleton.
    • In Mortal Kombat 9, Freddy Krueger as a DLC character. Kratos as a PS3 exclusive character was unexpected as well when he was initially revealed.
  • Kuina and Zeff from One Piece appeared in One Piece: Grand Adventure, the American made sequel to One Piece: Grand Battle.
  • Yugao Uzuki from the Naruto series, appearing in Clash of Ninja Revolution 2, has to be one of the most unexpected characters on this list, appearing in the Manga for less then five panels, showing none of her skills in these panels. She is so unknown that many assumed (and still do assume) she was a character created exclusively for Revolution 2 along with Komachi and Towa, the other exclusive ANBU, despite appearing in the Anime and Manga as mentioned before. It doesn't help that she was unnamed in all English versions of the series up to that date (guidebooks referred to her as a generic female ANBU). Even when she received focus in a filler arc in Shippuden and was called by name for once, people think she was only created for that filler.
  • Among the huge roster of characters in LEGO Star Wars 3 is Galen Marek, also known as Starkiller. While there was a set made to promote The Force Unleashed (the Rogue Shadow set), few could've guessed that Vader's Apprentice would actually be in a LEGO game.
  • In Lego Marvel: Super Heroes, Howard the Duck of all characters shows up in a side mission alongside Vulture. This is lampshaded with their Boss Subtitles: "Vulture and... Howard the Duck?"
  • In Lego Batman 3, your guide through the various Lantern Corps home worlds is The Green Loontern from the episode of Duck Dodgers where Daffy Duck got Hal Jordan's outfit after a mix up at the cleaners.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the roster included such iconic Batman foes as Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Penguin. More of a surprise was Solomon Grundy; while he's had a few run-ins with the Dark Knight, he was a foe of the original Green Lantern, and more commonly takes on various DCU heavy hitters.
  • Opa-Opa, the spaceship from Fantasy Zone, appearing in Sonic And Sega All Stars Racing.
  • Capcom vs. SNK 2 with Eagle, a fighter from the first iteration of Street Fighter otherwise not seen in years. There's also Kyosuke Kagami and Hibiki Takane (though they're both still fan-favorites in their own series).
  • Kingdom Hearts is an expert at this. It's not just a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of Square Enix and Disney, but of all things Square and Disney, which naturally makes it full of surprises.
  • Persona 4:
    • The game got a sequel, not in the form of the much-desired Persona 5 (that came a year later), but in an arcade-style fighting game Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena... with Aigis, Akihiko, and Mitsuru from Persona 3. Then there's Labrys, who was seemingly a new character created from the game...until Americans learned she had actually debuted in a Persona 3 Drama CD released only in Japan.
    • The fighting game itself got a sequel/update called Persona 4 Ultimax: The Ultimate Ultra Suplex Hold (shortened to just Persona 4 Arena Ultimax in other regions), which featured the rest of the Persona 3 cast except for Shinjiro and the main character since they're both dead. Those were expected. What wasn't expected was a couple of the new characters on the Persona 4 side: Rise Kujikawa, your team's Mission Control and designated non-combatant in every other game, and Tohru Adachi, one of the main antagonists of the original game.
  • A rare case when a game itself can fit this: For a while, it was rumoured a new Pokémon game would be revealed at Jump Festa 2011. Fan speculation ensued. Would it be Grey Version? A Ruby/Sapphire remake? No, it was a crossover with Nobunaga's Ambition. And the game actually made it overseas as Pokémon Conquest, blowing away predictions of No Export for You.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    • A game of swords, sorcery, dragons, and... the Space Core from Portal 2, as of an official PC-only add-on.
    • In the main game, Sinderion the alchemist from Skingrad returns from Oblivion in Blackreach, as a corpse. He was still doing research on Nirnroots when he died.
    • Due to the actions of the Akaviri Dragonslayers and their descendant Order, the Blades, Dragons have been rendered nearly completely extinct in Tamriel, with the few survivors not being sighted in thousands of years, leading most to consider them mythical creatures at best. As a result, Dragons have rarely been seen within the Elder Scrolls series... that is until Skyrim, when Alduin returns and begins resurrecting the fallen Dragons en-masse.
  • The much-delayed PC version of Renegade Ops features... Gordon Freeman of Half-Life?.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2's first North American DLC features a battle with Lightning, and everyone was expecting that. What they weren't expecting was for Sergeant Amodar to appear... and be a Commando-role monster. On top of that, The Unfought of Final Fantasy XIII, Jihl Nabaat, followed a few months later.
  • Probably one of the most insane examples is Street Fighter' Ryu appearing a DLC boss in Asura's Wrath, a game that isn't even a Fighting Game to begin with. What makes it even crazier is that fighting him changes the gameplay completely into a 2D fighter, meters and life gauges and all ala Street Fighter IV, though Asura's bottom gauges are different and more like his own game, of course.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds has Joss Whedon as an unlockable character.
    • On a larger scale, the game's six main playable characters are Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith... and Sid the Dummy. You know, from that one episode in the first season that you totally forgot about.
  • Sonic And All-Stars Racing Transformed
    • NASCAR driver Danica Patrick is a playable racer, as a cross promotional stunt for the game; the car she's driving in the game is planned to be driven by her in future NASCAR races.
    • Racetracks from unexpected sources, the most prominent one being Silent Blue from Burning Rangers. This game is so obscure, it initially wasn't on Wikipedia's list of SEGA franchises.
    • The Team Fortress 2 characters in the Steam release of the game.
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
  • In the fan-made Mega Man: A Day in the Limelight who is it that poor Snake Man finds himself pitted against? Airman!
  • Paper Mario: Sticker Star was bringing in many characters in the main series and had only a few new, notable characters. Some of the old characters brought in make sense, such as Bowser Jr., Kamek, and Petey Piranha. But there's one odd one: Gooper Blooper, a boss from Super Mario Sunshine. Unlike Petey, who also debuted in Sunshine, Gooper Blooper only made a few cameoes after his debut. He's now the third major boss of the game and a Dance Battler.
  • The Gundam Vs Series had stuck to animated machines and characters. Extreme Vs blew that out of the water when the Crossbones showed up in it, alongside the Astray Red and Blue Frames. Later DLC added the Blue Destiny Unit 01 (only appeared in a video game), Hi-Nu Gundam (a variation of Nu Gundam that only appeared in a novel), and the Xi Gundam (another novel-exclusive). Extreme Vs Full Boost continued the trend, adding the Ex-S Gundam, Ensemble Darkhorse Patrick Colasour, and, of all things, the Zeta Zaku. Extreme Vs Maxi Boost shall start at March 2014, bringing in Penelope (the rival MS of the Xi Gundam) and the Build Strike Gundam (Which in-universe is only a kitbashed model of a mobile suit), as well as variation mobile suits like the Avalanche Exia that have never appeared in anything outside of the MSV books (basically "what-if" mobile suits based on canon ones).
  • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 had a fairly ridiculous amount of returning characters from past Ace Attorney games, but perhaps most unexpected was Frank Sahwit, the murderer of the first case of the first game who essentially serves as nothing more than a tutorial for the player. The developers admitted they added him mostly because it was the series' 10th anniversary. We also get Penny Nichols, the trading card fangirl from the third case of the first game, a character so obscure that (to the developers) knowing her name is enough to mark a true fan.
    • Dai Gyakuten Saiban is a title that star's Phoenix ancestor who lives in Meiji era Japan, so one would expect a purely Japanese cast created for this game. No one expected the developers getting Public Domain Character Sherlock Holmes, aka the Great Detective of all literary fiction, involved in the investigations? Or that the staff would reimagine his sidekick Doctor John Waston as an eight-year-old girl genius named Iris Watson? Then it's revealed that only the first case takes place in Japan and the rest of the story in Victorian London, making the appearance of Holmes and Watson less jarring, but considering everyone excepted the entire game to take place in Japan, having it take place in London was a surprise for everyone.
  • RosenkreuzStilette
    • You get a code that lets you play as Grolla in her own side-game, Rosenkreuzstilette Grollschwert. And what happens when you get to the end of her own stage as her? You meet the original player character, Spiritia, as the boss.
    • Similarly, in Weißsilber, the side-game to Freudenstachel, playing as Pamela in her own stage introduces you to another unexpected face... It's Karl Palesch, Liebea's older brother who was only mentioned a few times in the first game.
  • Few Tomb Raider fans were expecting the return of Natla in Underworld
  • Several in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Gears of Destiny. The first was the announcement of the Materials, who were killed in the first game. Then they announced Yuuno and Alph who fans had assumed the people behind Nanoha had forgotten about around those years. Then the Lieze Twins were announced, who appeared even less than Yuuno and Arf, and aren't exactly high in the popularity lists. The biggest surprise though would have to be the announcement Rynith, since not only was she a Posthumous Character, but she had also never been shown fighting before Gears of Destiny.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle
    • Shigechi as DLC came right out of nowhere and added yet another Part 4 character to the roster. To further add to the surprise factor, it had previously been made known that a guidebook for the game covered "32 characters + 2 DLC", when 33 of those characters were already known. Needless to say, people were expecting someone a bit more momentous for the final, single character reveal.
    • The same somewhat goes for Fugo. Not only did the man only have one real fight, and thus, not a whole lot to use for a playable appearance, but he pretty much bowed out right at the end of the first half of Part V.
    • Still, there are others definitively more unexpected then him, such as a young lad named BAOH. Baoh's from another manga altogether, but one still made by Araki, that came before Jojo. This has split the fans between those who don't want their Jojo game to include characters from other works, and those who don't really mind.
  • Bowser Jr. in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Usually he wouldn't be this, but in this game he's the bonus boss and shows up with no foreshadowing whatsoever.
  • The Warriors Orochi series started out as a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Then, we started to see all-new characters that had nothing to do with the time periods of either game, such as Jeanne D'Arc. Then the ninjas started to arrive...and then Sophitia Alexandra, and...Sterkenberg Cranach?!
  • When it was announced that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze would be getting a fourth character alongside Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong to be revealed later in 2013, fans were expecting someone like Kiddy Kong or Funky Kong. So people were naturally surprised that it turned out to be Cranky Kong. Also compounded by the fact that Reggie Fils-Aime's VGX appearance was to reveal Cranky rather than the next Zelda game like many anticipated.
  • The defunct Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation took the cake for this, with so many unexpected Guest Fighters (like several characters from a series of Wuxia novels, the title character of Space Sheriff Gavan, Krauser II from Detroit Metal City) that you'd have sworn the developers just grabbed whatever character rights they could snatch up in about ten minutes. Barack Obama was made as a never-released DLC character.
  • Even the 45th Anniversary game, J-Stars Victory Vs had a few. Boa Hancock was added alongside Luffy when Zoro or Sanji would've been anticipated, Luckyman from Tottemo!! Luckyman (who was a support character in the previous crossover), and Taro Yamada from Chinyuki Taro To Yukaina Nakama Tachi. There has never been alot of people outside of Japan who has ever heard of him.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic not only has Revan show up, but as a villain, for double "unexpected" points.
  • Every WWE Game usually has this, from Andre The Giant in Smackdown Vs Raw, to Kharma in WWE 13.
    • Notable in the Kharma example is that she had never had a single match in WWE, and STILL appeared in two games (she was DLC in WWE 12).
    • As well, in Smackdown vs Raw 2011, Rob Van Dam, surprising because by the time the game had been released, he'd signed with TNA.
  • Hyrule Warriors has two of them: Midna and Agitha. The former wasn't as unexpected because of her large role and due to being very popular, but still surprised many people who expected her to be a one-shot character. Agitha, however, came completely out of left field for most players, as she only played a role in a sidequest, and didn't even show any combat abilities whatsoever.
  • Doctor Who Legacy:
    • Inverted with the Humble Bundle deal on the game, which came with a code unlocking all of the Doctors except for three. You'd expect the Twelfth (who had only done his regeneration Cliffhanger at that point) to be absent, but the other missing Doctors were 1) Creator's Favorite the Fifth Doctor and 2) overwhelming popularist-favourite the Fourth Doctor. And, to make it worse, while you could buy the Fifth Doctor virtually immediately from the in-game store, you can't buy the Fourth...
    • Many of the "companions" are obvious in-show companions (Rory Williams, Rose Tyler, Sarah Jane Smith) or non-travelling recurring allies generally considered 'companions' by fans (the Brigadier, the Paternosters, Craig) or helpful major characters in the story they're in (Porridge, Tricey). Then we go digging up very, very niche expanded universe companions like Benny, Molly, and Frobisher, as well as bewilderingly obscure minor characters who say a couple of lines in their serial and die (Punishment Medic) and the occasional inanimate object (Bessie).
  • Star Trek Online did this with its upcoming "Delta Rising" Expansion. Since it was centered in the Delta Quadrant, everyone knew characters from Star Trek: Voyager would be involved. However, they thought it would just be Tim Russ reprising his role as Tuvok and Garrett Wang returning as Harry Kim. No one expected Robert Picardo, Jeri Ryan, and Ethan Philips to reprise their roles as The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Neelix, though!
  • For Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, no-one expected a new character in the form of a young boy permanently affixed to a bed Mini-Mecha named Bedman. While the home console port brought back GG 2's Sin, it also had an unexpected curve in Elphelt, an utter cutie-pie with a love for heavy artillery.

    Web Original 
  • In Suburban Knights, That Dude in the Suede. Firstly for being away on a mission for two years prior to filming this, and secondly cause he denied being in it in the first place.
    • In universe, everyone's surprised when The Cinema Snob chooses to cosplay Indiana Jones, considering that he's not exactly who one thinks of when the topic is 'fantasy'. Snob justifies it by saying that surviving a nuclear explosion in a fridge counts as fantasy. Likewise, they're surprised that the very tall Handsome Tom chose the very short Willow.
  • Viari's return in the second half of Acquisitions Incorporated season 8 came as a huge surprise to everyone except himself and Chris. Firstly, he was explicitly Put on a Bus and replaced by a new intern in the first game of the season. Secondly, there have never been more than four players at an AI table before (in fact, said table is physically designed for four players)—much less two interns at once. Lastly, the mid-season recap foreshadowed the return of Aeofel, the series' original intern, making no mention of Viari at all.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold gave A Day in the Limelight to many C-list DC heroes, some of whom had never had a televised appearance before. Things began getting weird in Batman's Strangest Cases, when the Scooby-Doo gang show up, but the concept wasn't entirely new. Then Space Ghost got his own episode. For reference, after DC acquired the rights to Space Ghost, he was only used in a single short-lived series in 2005, and the character is only otherwise known for his Self-Parody talk show.
  • Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. As for why he's an unexpected character... almost everyone, in-universe and out, believed that Maul was dead after his bisection in The Phantom Menace. Filoni even said in a Behind the Scenes video that they deliberately made Savage Oppress a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Maul explicitly so they wouldn't bring him back.
  • Iroh and Zhao appear in the Spirit World in season two of The Legend of Korra. And in season three, Amon, Unalaq and Vaatu make appearances has hallucinations.
  • Derpy Hooves appearing as Rainbow Dash's replacement in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Rainbow Falls". One of her previous appearances had sparked off a massive controversy and Internet Backdraft that resulted in the character being absent from season three and all the released episodes of season four up to that point, leaving most of the fanbase to assume that she had been removed from the show completely. Compounding the surprise is the fact that aside from one or two extremely vague hints from the staff, none of the show's promotional materials so much as hinted that the character would be returning.
    • Cherry Jubilee of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates in Equestria Games.
    • The season 4 finale features Tirek, the Big Bad of the G1 TV special "Rescue at Midnight Castle", as the main antagonist. What makes him so unexpected is that Hasbro had lost the rights to many of their G1 characters (besides Applejack and Spike), and that the showrunners had explicitly avoided using creatures that looked too human (besides that spin-off about humans).
    • Scorpan, here reimagined as Tirek's brother, also counts, due to having less a role in the original story than Tirek, but here being the one responsible for his original defeat.
  • In the Series Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then.
  • The addition of Spider-Man to The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes might have caught some viewers by surprise, since he rarely makes guest appearances in other Marvel characters' cartoons. (The previous time he had a speaking role in someone else's show happened over 30 years earlier, in Spider-Woman's animated series.) Additionally, none of the previews or trailers for the second season showed him, at least not before the season began. It seemed even more unexpected for Spidey to become a reserve Avenger.

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alternative title(s): The Unexpected
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